Take a moment and just reflect on these questions... 

What does confidence mean to you?

When was the last time you really felt confident doing something?

How many times have you felt confident, then doubted yourself?

And if your answers were some variation of

"I don't know!"

"I can't remember"

"So many times!"

then you are not alone. One of the biggest problems people come to me for coaching for is their lack of confidence. Or rather, the lack of belief in themselves.

And when I think about it, we’re not always directly taught to believe in ourselves. We tend to grow that awareness through experience and praise in childhood and then when we're adults just sorta navigate it for ourselves.

Except this approach doesn't always work.

Because most of us struggle with our Inner Critic.

That little voice inside your head that tells you you aren't good enough, or you need to work harder, or is the first thing you hear when something didn't go to plan, bringing you down. Showing you your faults.

In short, 'proving' that you aren't good enough and overriding your confidence.

And your Inner Critic really thinks it's doing a good job. Saving you from yourself, from embarrassment, from anything remotely resembling you making a fool of yourself. Trouble is, it's usually gone haywire and is probably preventing you from doing or enjoying the things you want to do.

Imagine a hyperactive guard dog that barks at passing butterflies and bites the postman. Even though you know logically that neither of those things are a threat to you, your guard dog doesn't know that! And eventually, you are overwhelmed by the guard dog because it's 'protecting' you from every imagined threat possible, meaning you can't even go get the post from the postman without it trying to sabotage you.

In short, your inner critic has crushed your confidence with the aim of 'protecting' you from harm. The protector has become the oppressor.

Now the question is not "How did I get here?" (although that's a good one to explore with someone qualified!) it's "How do I tame the guard dog?" Or more accurately...

How do I Tame My Inner Critic?

Let's play a game! We'll get to the root of that voice and help it to work for you instead of against you. (And do not be fooled - this is deep shadow work. But it's also creative, playful and fun, and in return you'll get the results you want.)

If you're ready to dive deep and make lasting change, let's get started!

Go get a pen and several sheets of paper or a notebook then come back. (Typing on a screen will work but it's so much better if it's on paper.)

Taming Your Inner Critic: From Sabotage to Support

Take a deep breath, let it out and read on.

First, sit with the idea of your Inner Critic. Ask it to come forward to the forefront of your mind and observe it. Is it a humanoid? Is it a shape, an animal, a colour? Let the image form and ask it what its name is.

(Mine appears as a humanoid male, and his name is "The Critic" if you were interested!)

Write down its name and defining features, or draw if it you prefer, at the top of your paper and when you're done, draw a horizontal, dashed line underneath it.

Underneath that line, I want you to write down the key phrases you hear your inner critic say to you. I won't give you examples because I don't want to influence you! But just remember what it likes to say when you want to do something and it intervenes. Write them down and move on from one to the next, don't get bogged down.

When you've done that, draw another horizontal, dashed line underneath those phrases. You want to separate what it is from what you want it to be.

Now write down the phrases you want to hear instead of what it wants to say to you. Again, I won't give an example because I don't want to influence you! Think about what words or phrases will support you when you need a boost to go do the thing. Or what you need to hear when you are unsure about something but want to do it anyway.

When you've done that, take a deep breath. Well done! Now let's bring it all together. You're going to write it a letter, to thank it for doing its job in the Sabotage department, and reassign it a new job in the Support department.

Get a fresh piece of paper and write out the following paragraph at the top:

Dear (critic name),

I want you to know that I am grateful for your help and support, but from now on, I can take care of this role. I would like to reassign you to a job in the Support department. Your job will now be to support me whenever I am feeling insecure, and I have written you some phrases I’d like you to learn in place of your old words.

Instead of (insert sabotage comment here) I'd like you to say (insert support phrase here).

Keep going until you have included all the phrases you want to change with the new ones. You may end up in a mental dialogue with your inner critic - that’s OK. Spend a few minutes on this and then move on when you are ready.

The last thing you are going to write is this;

Thank you for understanding that I can take care of this myself now, and for taking on your new role so enthusiastically. I am looking forward to your support the next time I need you!

Love from (your name)

Phew! That's a lot to take in. Re-read it and make sure you are happy with it, and you can even add creativity to your paper if you want. Colour round the edges, cut it out with wavy scissors, colour it in rainbow colours! Whatever feels right to do, then tuck it away somewhere safe.

I recommend keeping it to hand and re-reading it several times a day over the next few weeks - really teach your newly reassigned Inner Critic what you want it to do for you.

And now go celebrate yourself for doing some deep shadow work. You did good!

Reclaim Your Confidence

Taming your Inner Critic is key to reclaiming your confidence and your self-belief. I truly believe you will start to feel more confident as time goes on, simply because you are no longer listening to the negativity inside your mind and have re-structured it to support you instead of sabotage you.

Remember, if you get bogged down again with your Inner Critic, you can always revisit this game.

Here’s to your new, more positive mindset!

P.S. If you need a confidence boost for your vocals, check out my new free course, The Path to Vocal Freedom. You’ll love it!